A Simple Family Habit That Can Make a Big Difference

Growing up, it was part of my family’s culture to ask, “How can I improve?” to one another. My parents encouraged open communication and honesty. To this day, family get-togethers include a time of accountability and sharing, where we can talk about our marriages, our parenting, our struggles and triumphs. As a result, my parents, my siblings and I, as well as our spouses and kids remain close to one another. We are each other’s confidants and friends. It may not always be easy to swallow each other’s correction and suggestions on how to improve, but we know that words are exchanged and offered in love and with the best intentions. 

I am so glad that Edric has embraced this same culture in our home. In fact, he is a good example to me of humility (something I continually need to improve on). When he messes up and makes mistakes as a husband or father, he will ask for forgiveness and repair whatever relational damage was inflicted by his wrongs. 

Lately, his schedule has been packed with meetings and activities. The busy-ness and stress have made him more susceptible to impatience. He has changed so much in this area that these moments of losing his cool have become infrequent. However, a few days ago, during a conversation with Elijah, our oldest son, Edric cut him off and didn’t let him explain himself. They were having a discussion over semantics. Elijah tried to make his point and give his rebuttal, but Edric told him to stop talking. This silenced Elijah who quietly conceded to Edric’s point in the discussion. 

Some days after I invited Elijah to an afternoon run. As we jogged over and around the hilly roads of our community, I thought to ask him, “How can I improve?” 

Elijah welcomes these invitations to speak about what’s on his heart. Since he is fourteen, he’s also very vocal. He told me I needed to be more consistent about schedules. True, true, true. Our recent travels threw off our routines which Elijah didn’t appreciate. (He likes predictability.)
After apologizing to Elijah, he opened up to me about how he felt his dad (Edric) could improve. I hadn’t asked him this, but he volunteered this information anyway. 

“Dad needs to listen to me more. I feel like I can’t always express myself, like he cuts me off.” 

I knew this statement was in reference to their recent conversation which left Elijah feeling hurt and impotent. As I quietly listened, I also thought through how I would bring up this issue to Edric later. 

When an opportunity presented itself (meaning Edric was in a relaxed mood and not stressed out about work), I pulled him aside and mentioned what Elijah expressed to me about him.

Edric immediately internalized what I shared. He wasn’t defensive. “Okay, I will talk to him.” 

As predicted, Edric found a moment during one breakfast to ask for Elijah’s forgiveness in front of our other kids. 

He looked Elijah in the eye, saying something like this, “Mom told me that you felt hurt. She said you feel like I cut you off, like the other day.” 

Elijah nodded and Edric followed up with, “Will you forgive me?” 

Elijah replied, “Of course, dad.” 

Breakfast continued pleasantly for everyone as the dialogue shifted to other matters. But I know that Edric’s willingness to change and improve impacted the heart of Elijah and our other kids in a very positive way. They have witnessed this sort of exchange before and it matters to them that the “loop is closed” on an issue affecting one or more of us. 

Furthermore, of all the people in our home, it is Edric’s example that imprints upon our kids what values are important to our family, what principles they too will live by. I am not discrediting my own participation in the formation of my kids’ sense of right and wrong. I too have a responsibility to model and teach my kids Christ-likeness. However, I do believe that the humility of a father is like a special key that unlocks the hearts of children. There’s something about a father, the head, the leader, the respected one, stepping down from his honored position to admit fault and weakness that thaws and softens a child’s cold and hardened heart. 

Of course, this doesn’t excuse us, as moms, from having to do the same thing!

Like any habit, it takes a while to get used to asking one another how we can improve. It may feel awkward at first. I remember one of the first times Edric and I asked each other how we can improve during a date night and the romantic event turned sour by the end. Defensively, I countered Edric’s statements about how I needed to change with excuses instead of just saying, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

So the question, “how can I improve?” ought to be followed by a sincere apology when it is answered. Otherwise, it won’t work. The moment will turn into a massive fail. 

Let me conclude by giving some reasons why we should ask the question, how can I improve?:

1. If our relationship with our family members is already in the danger zone, then this could be an opportunity to rescue it. Because a move like this would appear so unprecedented and unexpected, it could be the sort of jolt that awakens hope. 

2. If we are convinced that we have nothing to improve on, then we hazard nothing by daring to ask the question, right? 

3. But, hey, the chance are, our kids are well-aware of our flaws. We can’t fool them! They will definitely have something to say about how we can improve that will be honest and beneficial to our character growth. 

4. Our children long to feel treasured by us and anything that we do to threaten this need wounds them deeply. One of the best ways to communicate that we care about this need is to ask how we can be better parents, how we can act and speak in ways that tell them they are special to us. When our kids recognize that we are intentional about pursuing a loving and close relationship with them, they will be inspired to reciprocate. 

5. Transparency and openness in the home has to begin with us, as parents. We can’t expect our children to embrace open communication if they don’t see the sincerity in us first. We can’t expect them to humble themselves if we don’t do so.

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke‬ ‭22:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

All of us have made mistakes as parents, but the good news is, it’s never too late to initiate a culture that ushers in healthy communication, healing, and restoration. Our children want to forgive us, they want to have better relationships us, but many times we don’t give them the opportunity to do these things. Maybe it’s because we are prideful, oblivious, or busy. Perhaps we are wounded oersons ourselves and haven’t experienced God’s grace to forgive our own parents or other family members who have injured us emotionally. Therefore, we don’t know how to ask the question or how to say sorry. 

Here’s a word of encouragement: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is also time to break the cycle. We cannot alter events of the past but we can be catalysts for positive change in our own families, something that is within our control. And this can begin with a very simple habit, that of asking, “How can I improve?” 

Let’s try doing this once a week, working on the areas of change that are pointed out to us, and then let’s see how profoundly it affects the relationships and climates of our families. 

Helping Kids Work Through Their Emotions

On the day I took my second son, Edan, to renew his passport, the event turned into a mom and son bonding time. Troubled by an incident with his friends the night before, Edan revealed to me that there was something he wanted to divulge, something that deeply bothered him. The tears came first before he blurted out, in between sobbing, that his friends made fun of him. 

Edan, being the emotional onion that he is, took about five minutes to actually speak about his pain. I had to wait on his silence to drag on until I finally commanded him to obey and tell me what was wrong. After all, he initiated bringing up the issue in the first place so this meant he actually planned to tell me about it.

So he did. He proceeded to explain that his friends created a storyline that highlighted him as one of the main characters. In the story, as narrated by his friends, Edan insisted that they give him one hundred hotdogs to eat as payment for opening the door of a room they wanted to enter. The hotdogs made him fat and everyone cackled at the image this fictional tale conjured. Edan said he joined in the laughter but deep inside he harbored hurt and resentment. For a good part of the evening, he remained withdrawn, which was very unusual for him as an outgoing person.

I listened to his woeful tale, trying to understand where he was coming from. As I probed further, Edan confessed to making fun of his friends, too. He admitted that creating stories with friends as characters in them was originally his idea. Some weeks ago he told these stories in a manner that embarrassed his friends. 

Once I had all the facts, I helped him process what he went through:

First, when people say things that aren’t true, we don’t have to let their statements or claims wound us. Instead, we need to remember our worth in Christ. He loves us and values us so that when others don’t, we can take comfort in the security that our relationship with Him provides. In fact, I encouraged him to laugh along, playing their game. Next time, he can add to the comedy and say, “How come you only made me eat one hundred hotdogs? Why not, one thousand?” The point is to be able to laugh at oneself without taking it personally.

If, however, people say things that are true, then we ought to humble ourselves and acknowledge the reality that change is necessary, and ask for forgiveness when we have been the offensive persons.

Since Edan is a natural leader, I also had to correct his example.

“Edan, God made you a leader. People follow you, look up to you, and want your favor. This is a big responsibility. Therefore, you need to always think through your motivations. Are your choices glorifying God?” 

I added, “When you made fun of your friends, that wasn’t kind or glorifying to God, and your friends copied your example.” 

Edan chewed on this and acknowledged that he hadn’t been a good example. He smiled sheepishly as he realized that the offense began with him.

Afterwards, I told him about how we can respond with graciousness when people hurt us. I talked about my own encounters with people who don’t like me because of my convictions and what I stand for.

Some months ago, a lady who was very irate with me, accused me of projecting an image of perfection to my readers, stabbed at my parenting efforts, and ridiculed my children. She made some bold remarks that attacked my character and motivations, and wrote these as a long comment after one of my posts, generously expressing her disdain towards me.

Since I didn’t see the comment right away, it wasn’t till weeks later that I discovered it and saw a thread of replies by other readers who defended me. (To those of you who did so, thank you. I was so touched by your desire to come to my rescue.)

Here were my options:

1. Verbally argue and defend myself (very tempting!)

2. Ignore the person (easy to do) 

3. Apply graciousness (hardest to do)

God convicted me to go with number three. However, I still had to carefully filter through my motives before crafting a response.

I told Edan that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond with grace to persons who use their tongues or written word to accuse, berate, and make fun of us. He listened intently, noting the parallel to what happened to him. 

“So what did you say, mom?”

Before summarizing the gist of my reply to this woman, I shared with Edan how I struggled with vengefulness, which he could relate with. However, I had to remember that I don’t represent myself. Therefore my intentions and actions had to mirror Christ in me.

“The reason why it’s possible to be gracious to others,” I added, “is because God extended grace to us. When He sacrificed Himself for us, to pay for our sins, it was an act of grace, something we did not deserve. Therefore, we can do the same to people who don’t deserve grace from us.” 

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

“Grace,” I explained, “goes beyond withholding and controlling our emotions, like when we are mad and try to control our tempers or refrain from speaking. It’s about choosing to love and bless persons who have hurt us because we want them to know Jesus, too. That’s what it means to give a gracious response when we are offended.”

Edan took a moment to digest this thought.

“So what did the person say, mom? After you wrote back?

He was so eager to know the conclusion of our dialogue.

Unfortunately the person didn’t comment back, even after I asked for her forgiveness for entries or things written by me that declared I was a perfect parent. This was never my intention. I also suggested that we meet face to face so we could get to know each other better and then she could form an accurate conclusion about my kids and me. And then I ended by telling her that I cared about her, that I didn’t think of her as an enemy.

Since she never got back to me, I explained to Edan that there may be occasions in our lives when we extend grace and it is not reciprocated or received well. This is beyond our control. What’s within our control is that we choose to respond correctly. 

After relating this experience to Edan’s incident with his friends, we reviewed our discussion:

We will encounter people in our lives who will say hurtful things. That’s a given, an avoidable reality. However, we can choose how we will respond, which is within our control. Most importantly, we represent Jesus Christ and His interests. So while it is normal to feel bad and discouraged as a result of people’s negative words or verbal bullying, we must process the instinct to be vengeful, harbor anger, or emotionally withdraw, remembering that our security is in Christ and that our goal is to glorify Him and connect people to Him.  


Emotions are a good gauge for the deeper issues of the heart. As a parent, I’m learning to listen to my kids’ feelings and avoid dismissing these as sinful or wrong (which can be my tendency.) However, I also need to teach my kids how to think through their emotions, the causes and the implications of entertaining feelings to the point where they forego making the right decisions or internalize wrong perspectives. 

Edan is eager to hang out with his friends once again. Whew. 

He decided not to take their teasing personally and he learned how to be a better friend and example to others. By the end of our mother and son date, he was all smiles, too! 

Here are some questions that may help our older kids (and us) process feelings in a healthy way:

How does this situation or person make me feel?

Why do I feel this way?

What need may this person have that caused him or her to do or say hurtful things? 

What is the most God-honoring response towards this situation or person?

How can I use this moment as an opportunity to lead this person to Christ?

What would exemplifying God’s grace look like at this moment?

 

Candid Moments of My Youngest

Catalina, my three year old, is one of those kids who is candid and honest. She is also strong and fearless in many ways. She certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind which can be a problem at times. My husband, Edric, and I are teaching her to be obedient and respectful, the latter being high on the list of character traits she needs to learn. 

During our trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi she said so many amusing things I just had to write them all down so I don’t forget them! 

Here are some of her unfiltered statements…

1. “I am going to tell your husband!” (She said this to Tiana when they were having a discussion in the car.) 


2. “I don’t want to play with that boy, he is ugly.” (About a curly haired boy in the playground who was actually very cute.) 

3. “Hey! That’s my seat!” (To an elderly woman who sat beside her on a two-seater wooden swing. We had to correct this, of course, and ask Catalina to apologize.) 

4. “My prume is hurting.” (What’s a prume? She points to her thumb. Sometimes she invents words…) 

5. “Don’t worry! Don’t be scared! I am here, Tiana!” (When Tiana seemed nervous about riding on on amusement park rides that Catalina was too small to ride on. She would shout this from the sidelines.)


6. “I will take care of you, Tiana.” (When Tiana didn’t want to go into the IKEA playplace without her brothers. And Catalina put her arm around her as she said this to assure her that she would be with her.)

7. “You! Stop crying! Stop it!” (She opens the door of the hotel room to shout at a child who was crying in another room. Good thing the hallway was empty and the door of that child’s room was closed so his or her parents didn’t see her!)

8. “Why is your stomach so big?” (To a kid standing behind her in line for face painting, accompanied by a poke to the kid’s belly.) 


9. “Please, stop it. Stop talking. You are so boring.” (To an announcement being made over the PA system of the plane.) 


10. “Okay, everyone, do freestyle!” (This was her own rendition of a wacky pose. I don’t know where she got it but she raised three fingers as she posed for the camera.)

11. “Siri, what is Elijah’s password?” (When she couldn’t turn on his IPad.) 

12. “Praise God! It’s not hard!” (About her poop, while pooping on a public toilet.)

I just love, love, love this stage of her life! Her size, her mind, her expressiveness. But she definitely needs training in character still, so Edric and I are working on this even as we appreciate her personality…

What to do About the Entitlement Mentality

The phrase “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot as emblematic of today’s younger generation. Merriam Webster defines entitlement as:

  • the fact of having a right to something. “full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
  • the amount to which a person has a right. “annual leave benefits.”
  • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. “no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement”

I don’t see a problem with the first two definitions. Kids, for example, have the right to feel loved, secure, important, and special. God created them with these needs and He designed the family to fulfill them.

What we want to avoid, as parents, is raising kids who think they deserve privileges and preferential treatment because they have a me-centered view of reality. This is where training of their heart-attitudes has to come in.

Here are some practical ways Edric and I are trying to weed out the negative sense of entitlement in our kids:

Learn to Wait

Between Edric and me, I tend to give in more to the kids’ wants so I am thankful that Edric insists on being firm about training our kids to wait.

Last Christmas, Cetaphil, a brand that we endorse as a family, gave the kids GCs for Toys R Us. The kids were thrilled since we didn’t buy them expensive gifts for Christmas. We asked them to purchase presents for each other and gave them a fairly small budget per person to do so. When they received their GCs, the kids shrieked with joy, expecting to be able to troop to the toy store soon after. However, Edric encouraged them to postpone their urge to do so until such time as he deemed favorable.

At first, I felt badly for the kids. During Christmas we told them we would focus on serving an underprivileged community rather than make our celebration about presents. They didn’t complain when they received simple gifts. Therefore, my impulse was to reward their good attitudes.

Yet, I trusted Edric’s leading on the matter and he was wise to mandate that the kids wait once more. A few weeks ago, he finally allowed each of our kids to pick out something at the toy store. We had another photoshoot for Cetaphil where they obeyed and listened to instructions very well so Edric wanted to bless them for their positive character.


In keeping with our emphasis on learning to wait, I asked the kids not to open their purchases till the day after. Once again they complied. There was some resistance from our younger two who came up to me grasping their new toys hoping that they could persuade me to change my mind by batting their pretty eyelashes. But I didn’t cave in and insisted that tomorrow wasn’t very far away. They understood and eagerly anticipated waking up the next morning. Exercising self-control allowed them to thoroughly enjoy the moment when they opened their toys.

Whenever parents express concern about their kids being entitled, Edric and I ask them to think through what sort of environment and values they are perpetuating at home. It’s not our children’s faults when they grow up feeling like the “world owes them.” Most likely, it’s due to the way we are raising them.

One problem may be too much too soon. For example, many parents feel upset about their kids’ addiction to gadgets but they supply their children with devices to begin with. Furthermore, these gadgets are usually given when their children are too young to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these.

We made this mistake with Catalina when she was younger. Needing to appease her and keep her preoccupied, we would hand my phone to her. However, this had a detrimental affect on her personality. She began to resort to whining when she couldn’t use my phone, thinking it was her right to have it as a form of entertainment. So we had a season of “unplugging” for her.

Now, when I tell her, “Catalina, you can’t play with that or you can’t have that,” more often than not her reply is, “Okay, mommy.” Before, she would arch her head back and cry, sulk, or roll around on the couch or bed to emphasize her disappointment. By God’s grace, she has improved a lot!

Humility and Service

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God but did not insist on being treated like God, nor did he demand the privileges that belonged to Him. He did not appear in His glorious form but in the form of man whom He created. As if this wasn’t humbling enough, He regarded Himself as a servant, not just any servant, but the lowliest of all — a bond servant.

The word for bondservant in Greek is Doulos which implies slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, or to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. (Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doulos.html)

“The King of the Universe, the Lord of glory, voluntarily became a pauper for our sake. He had to borrow a place to be born, a boat to preach from, a place to sleep, a donkey to ride upon, an upper room to use for the last supper, and a tomb in which to be buried. He created the world but the world did not know Him. He was insulted, humiliated, and rejected by the people He made. (Source: Ken Boa, Reflections Newsletter, May 1988.)

Our children have inherent worth as people created in the image of God, but like Christ, they don’t have to insist or demand to be treated as special. Neither should they expect the “world to revolve around their needs and wants.”

Instead, they can copy Christ’s example. He set aside His privileges and position to serve our needs. This act of humility didn’t diminish His worth, instead it allowed Him to accomplish the purpose for which He came to earth — the sacrifice of His life on the cross to pay for our sins which met our greatest need — forgiveness. Similarly, are we teaching our children to seek the highest good of others? Are we exemplifying this ourselves?

Edric and I have five kids with five different personalities, and all of them manifested a self-centered perspective early on in their lives. By two years old it was usually full blown in its ugliness and without intervention and consistent training, all of our kids would have been out of control by now. While they continue to struggle with selfishness (who doesn’t?), they understand that as a family we are committed to serving the Lord and others. We are on this earth to be a blessing.

In order to emphasize this, we expose our children to ministry activities where they must serve and think of the needs of others. When our kids minister alongside Edric and me, they experience what it is like to go outside of their comfort zones and channel their God-given talents towards caring for others. In the process they realize that they can live purposefully, beyond the pursuit of self-gratification.


This usually happens when our kids are at the age when they can express their personal reflections and insights. At about nine or ten years of age, we give them opportunities to stand in front of audiences to share what God is teaching them.

Elijah was more natural at this but we asked Edan to participate as well about three years ago. We avoided forcing him. But when he finally got to experience speaking along side us his heart attitude changed. He now says, “I want to be a blessing!”

Edric and I have also learned from my brother and sister-in-law who are part of the sports ministry of our church. They include my nephews and niece in their outreaches whenever possible. At present, their kids also disciple other children and lead bible studies for them. Edric and I asked our kids to do this as well but they got discouraged when their first few attempts didn’t produce desired results. The kids they were teaching preferred to play! However, we have challenged our older children to get these studies started again.

Contribute

Our desire is to instill in our kids what it means to be contributors rather than takers. Whether it is serving in ministry or helping out at home, we want our kids to take initiative to meet the needs they see and learn the value of work. 

Edric recently required the boys to take care of the yard with him.  At first our kids resisted, especially Edan who prefers to be indoors. However, after our kids experienced mowing the grass, taking out the big shears to trim plants, shrubs and branches, sweeping and collecting dead leaves (and then burning them to roast marshmallows), they realized that doing chores together can be a lot of fun! Our yard is still in dismal shape and needs a lot of beautifying! 

Since we have household help we don’t want our kids to feel like someone is always there to pick up after them, straighten their rooms, and respond to their every request. They are able-bodied enough to fix their beds, clean their mess, and be responsible for their toys and belongings.



During our trip to Dubai, Edric had the boys sort through all their clothing and pack their own luggage. I usually prepare all their clothes and shoes, but Edric forbade me from doing so this time around. He reminded me that the boys are old enough to exercise independence in this area, that it was necessary for them to do so, too. At first, I hesitated to agree with him for fear that our sons would forget important articles of clothing.

However, I praise God that I listened to Edric because I haven’t had to micromanage how they pair their outfits or keep track of what goes into their suitcases. They have taken the initiative to put away their clothes and select what they will wear every day which makes it a lot easier for me since I only have to worry about the girls’ luggages. 

Stewardship

Even if our kids technically have material possessions that belong to them, we tell them they don’t own anything. God owns everything we have as a family. We are just stewards of these blessings, therefore our response needs to be one of appreciation and conscientiousness about taking care of what is the Lord’s. Since we don’t own anything, it becomes easier for our kids to share as well. No one is allowed to say, “This is mine!” 

Frugality and Thriftiness

While we don’t want our children to worry about money, we don’t want them to think it comes easily either. It starts with us, as parents, modeling simplicity. When our kids observe us demonstrate restraint it motivates them to do the same. When we don’t exercise discretion they tend to think they can spend indiscriminately, too.

My older boys hold me accountable now. Elijah will challenge me in a polite way by asking, “Mom, do you really need that? Mom, that’s kind of expensive…”

Since Elijah and Edan earn money when they do jobs for Edric, they understand that a lot of effort is entailed in saving and accumulating wealth. It probably helps that we don’t give them allowances since they are homeschooled. Instead, they get paid when they do actual work. As a result, they exercise caution when spending their money, too. They prefer to invest their funds in stocks in order to grow it for future use.

Elijah and Edan both have individual stock portfolios. Their investment philosophy is invest in companies with a healthy track record, give good value for money, and are aligned with their personal convictions. For example, they prefer not to put their earnings into companies that sell junk food. Good call, boys!

Giving children a vision for what they can accomplish if they can save and invest money also keeps their impulses at bay. For example, when Elijah was eleven years old, he bought himself an IPad to increase his productivity. His rationale was, it was a “business investment.” He paid seventy-five percent of the cost of an IPad Air after researching and bidding for the best deal. We didn’t just hand him a new device even though he was old enough to responsibly handle one. We let him save up for it and go through the trouble of finding the best deal. As a result, he has taken very good care of his IPad and he uses it to learn about coding, program, track his stocks, and communicate with. 

Gratefulness

One of the best cures for entitlement is gratitude. This past week Edric had the kids memorize, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Timothy 5:17) Since we are in the Middle East, meeting with old and new friends, visiting different sites and learning about a unique culture, our kids may not always appreciate every experience we have. Furthermore, they may forget to express their sincere thanks when people treat us or take us to places. Church friends have been so hospitable and accommodating towards us that our kids can become spoiled, too! (We feel spoiled!) So we have repeatedly reminded them to be grateful, to avoid being demanding or upset when their expectations are not met. After all, we don’t deserve the kindness being  showered upon us.

Gratitude also helps to guard our hearts from greed, one of the symptoms of entitlement. I don’t know how many of you are from Chinese families but here’s something that I appreciated about what my father did in ours. (I am half Chinese, my father being the Chinese parent and my mother being the American one.) Growing up, my father didn’t raise my siblings and me to bank on inheritance. So my siblings and I avoided planning our lives based on the expectation that our dad’s businesses, investments, and properties would be handed down to us. Instead, my dad assessed whatever needs we had through the years and blessed us when he saw it fit to do so.

He decided what was fair and still decides what is fair because he is still alive. In the process, he also gets to enjoy whatever “gifts” he gives us.

More importantly, my parents emphasized and continue to emphasize faith in the Lord as the unifying identity of our family. They still disciple us as their grown up children (as well as our spouses and children). As a result, we share the same values and perspectives on family, ministry, work, and wealth, and have a deep love and loyalty towards one another.


Nevertheless, I continue to pray that money will never come between us. I know it happens to the best of families and ours isn’t immune so it is by God’s grace alone that we desire what is best for one another and rejoice when we see each other prosper. Some of us have more than others and even though there may be times when it’s tempting to compare lifestyles and privileges, what safeguards our hearts and minds is the truth that all things come from the Lord’s hand. Whom he chooses to bless materially is in accordance with his pleasing and perfect will. 

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
At the end of the day, I believe that a negative sense of entitlement boils down to a theological issue. It may be hard for kids to grasp this when they are young, but as they grow up, we need to remind them that every person is a recipient of grace. All of us are un-deserving of God’s grace, yet He forgave us and gave us the right to become His children.

“Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus Christ), to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”John 1:12

If we understand grace then we will be gracious when we aren’t treated the way we hope to be, when we don’t get our way, or when we fail to receive what we think we deserve to have. Why? Jesus Christ has met our desperate need for forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father has satisfied our deepest longings for love and acceptance. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to break away from the pain and bondage of sin. And our best life is yet to be, in heaven. Therefore, any good thing bestowed upon us today is a bonus! So we, and our children, can learn to wait, be humble and servant-like, contribute (work hard), be good stewards, practice thriftiness and frugality, and remember to say thank you! 


  

 

Extreme Patience Required (EPR)

I have a son, who will remain unnamed in case he reads this someday, who likes to take his time…all the time. He has little sense of urgency. This becomes a source of frustration for each family member when we are rushing to an event or have to honor a commitment and are pressed for time. 
Whether it’s eating, dressing up, homeschooling, or finishing responsibilities, his tendency is to delay, be distracted, and lose focus. Over the years, Edric and I have disciplined and trained him to be otherwise but it continues to be a challenge. Edric even got him a watch so he could use it to track his time but he lost it! 

Extreme patience is often required of us as we teach and train our son. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the positive side of his personality type. Because he is such a chill person and so easy going, he isn’t a reactive, easily angered person. He doesn’t make demands on others, harbor bitterness, and his default disposition is joyfulness. So Edric and I have to manage the tension between training him and encouraging his God-given uniqueness. 

These past few days we have been in Dubai. Edric and I are here for a series of talks and business activities and we took the kids with us. Almost every meal, our son who likes to take his time is the last to finish. Before we head out the door, he is putting a shoe on, using the toilet, looking for a jacket, or in the middle of something he should have completed thirty minutes earlier. 

During one of these occasions when everyone was out the door and he hobbled out of it with one shoe on and a sock and a shoe in his hand, I asked him what he was doing for the last hour and his reply was, “Umm…I was swiveling around in the chair of the room.” 

Seriously, he can do absolutely nothing for stretches of time and find this deeply gratifying. He’s a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of person…”stopping” being the key word. 

Like I said, this personality type comes with its strengths. However, Edric and I move about so quickly that it’s tiring to wait for this son of ours to mobilize. This trip has magnified his character flaw, so it has been a real lesson in patience for both of us. 

I nearly failed as a parent when this son lost a piece of his expanders (it’s like a retainer for the mouth to open up the jaw). The accident happened after he forgot to be ready at the hour we agreed upon and Edric and I had to get to the venue of a seminar we were speaking at. Edric couldn’t be delayed so he went ahead to set up his laptop while I tried to hurry our son along.

Unfortunately, a very important piece of his expanders flew out of its container and landed on a tiled floor that had patterns which completely camouflaged the piece. So I nearly cried in aggravation as this accident required me to get down on my hands and knees while in my heels to comb through each surface area of the tiled floor to feel for the piece. 

This is ridiculous!, I thought to myself. Why does __________________ do these things?! Ahhhh!!!! 

Meanwhile my son showed no distress whatsoever which kind of irked me! I reminded him, “You can’t do this…make everyone wait for you. It’s inconsiderate. It’s something you have to change and improve on, okay?”

I am glad the annoyance came out of me in that way rather than shouting at him like I felt compelled to do. My patience had reached its limit and it took the grace of God to contain my irritation! Thankfully, I was about to do a ministry activity with Edric which kept me mindful of my responses. But if I hadn’t been in prayer that day, or spent a good chunk of it preparing for my talk and being in the Word of God, I am sure my emotions would have taken over in a very ugly manner. 

We didn’t find the piece after about ten minutes of searching which was all I could spare before my seminar. So the kids and I left the hotel room and hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door knob so we could resume our search later on in the evening. At the end of our day, our son did his best to find the piece and recover it which was good news. (These expanders are pricey!) 

Edric and I have considered how to help him after our speaking engagement. I believe the root problem for him is discipline. He has to train his mind to plan wisely and resist the impulses he feels to move on to something else when there is a task at hand. He also needs to discipline his body so that it follows the dictates of his mind. 

Here are some solutions that Edric and I intend to apply:

1. Don’t stop training him until he develops a sense of urgency, proactive-ness, and responsibility. As tiring as it may be to keep telling him the same thing over and over again, the burden is on us to do so until he internalizes and applies these things on his own. 

2. Stay beside him when he homeschools and eats his meals so we can monitor him. Yesterday evening, I sat beside him and he downed his soup and pasta in a fraction of the time it usually takes him. This is because I got to remind him constantly and reach over to rub his back every time he got distracted. 

3. Commend him when he puts effort into quickening his pace. Because he gets corrected a lot, we don’t want him to grow up with insecurities or feel like he is compared to his siblings who don’t have the same issue. So we have to balance out our training with affirmation, too. This also means communicating to him that he is unconditionally loved and accepted, too. 

4. Correct him in private. His siblings tend to feel the same annoyance that we do towards his mannerisms and personality, so it’s unhealthy for them to hear us correct him in front of them. This will only fuel their aggravation. 

5. Edric intends to spend more focused time with him. After all, he’s a boy and there’s nothing like the attention and mentoring of a father to a son. 

6. Extend grace. This son of ours makes mistakes quite often and as tempting as it is to lose our tempers with him, we absolutely cannot as it will destroy the seeds of faith that have been planted in his heart. Our greater desire for him is that he loves and obeys the Lord. If we do not respond to him in ways that are spirit-filled, and if we do not ask for forgiveness when we fail in this area, we will push him farther away from us and this goal. 

7. Thank the Lord for Him. His personality is a blessing and his life is a beautiful gift. Does he need to keep improving in certain areas? Of course. But it doesn’t make him less special or important to us or the Lord. So we need to thank the Lord for being intentional about giving us a son with his unique traits.

8. Pray. Edric and I need to remember that we can’t control our kids. We may be able to train them and discipline them, but their hearts are another matter. This is God’s department. He is the one who causes real transformation of the heart so that the behavior follows. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on Him to make this happen. 

I don’t know if this son of ours sounds like one of your kids. But if he does, be encouraged. Faithful discipleship always produces fruit. 

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬ ‭


 

God Loves Single Moms

After Edric and I give parenting talks, many single moms come up to us feeling discouraged and anxious because of our emphasis on the role of a father. They tend to fear that their children will not grow up with the support and mentoring they need from a dad. We often encourage them by saying that God is gracious and then give them practical tips on how to parent alone. However, our vantage point is still different and single parenting is best explained from the perspective of someone who is actually in a position to say what the challenges are and how to surmount them.


Last weekend, Edric and I were in Cebu with friends Mel and Cathy Po, where we had the privilege of speaking alongside actress, Jodi Sta. Maria to a large gathering of Ateneo parents. Jodi shared her journey as a single mother and she itemized these life lessons: 

Security – a child longs for security. It’s possible for a single parent to meet this need by being available and creating a home environment where a child knows that unconditional love and forgiveness abound.

Identity – a single mom’s identity has to be rooted in the Lord and she has to transfer this truth to her child/ren as well. God is father to the fatherless and husband to the husband-less. When a single mother understands how much God loves her, she doesn’t have to worry about how others label her or judge her. Her identity is hidden in Christ, therefore her joy and peace also come from her relationship with Him. These are not dependent on circumstances or others. 

Non-negotiable Date Time – Since single moms tend to get busy trying to provide financially for their child/children, it’s important to safeguard date nights with them. These are predictable moments in the week when children can look forward to bonding time with mom. 

God-centered Parenting – Pschologists, the media, and books will have all kinds of opinions about how single parents should teach, train, and raise their children. However, the best source is still God’s word. He is the author of parenting. Principles such as Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is older he will not depart from it, and Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and teach your children to do the same, are still applicable to solo parents and their kids. 

Love as Motivation – Children are inspired to change, to improve, to excel when they know with certainty that they are loved. Unconditional love is a powerful motivator. Not only should our children be assured that we love them no matter what, we also have to make choices for them that are based on unconditional love verses selfishness. Whether single parent or not, this is a real struggle. “Let all that you do be done in love.”‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭16:14‬ ‭

Educate Yourself – Every parent needs a doctorate degree in parenting. But no school exists for this sort of degree! So we have to attend biblical parenting seminars, read books, and surround ourselves with parents who have successfully raised their own children so we can learn from their mistakes and victories. Edric and I continue to grow in our parenting from getting together with other couples who are also committed to teaching and training their children. We exchange “best practices.” Single parents can do the same. 

Memories Last Forever – Invest in memories. Some of my fondest memories are of my childhood years, sitting around the dinner table as a family, exercising together, traveling, and vacations. These are forever imprinted in my heart and mind…as they will also be for kids of single parents who deposit fond memories into the emotional banks of their kids. 

Overcome the Circumstance as a Family – I would like to add that you can have a new “team” of people who will become your child’s family to provide the emotional and spiritual support you both need. No parent should be an island. “It takes a village to raise a child” is such a true statement. So find that village of people. Maybe it’s your parents who can come along side you to help you parent. Or maybe it’s a sibling and his or her family who can be part of your child’s growing up years to fill in the gaps. 

Manage Your Time and Priorities – When I had the chance to ask Jodi (who is super humble and down to earth) how she balances being an actress and parenting her son, she revealed, “I don’t take on multiple projects at a time. I used to, but I don’t anymore.” 

She admitted that she has earned the freedom and respect from the industry to turn projects down, which is a blessing from the Lord. However, I am sure it’s not easy to say no to good sources of income as a single mom. Jodi is a great example of someone who works hard to be a provider but recognizes that God is her ultimate provider. Prioritizing her son, as well as giving time for her weekly discipleship group, speaks volumes about her desire to put what’s most important first. It’s no wonder God is also blessing her career! 

I want to end this entry with a passage that I read a few days ago that I feel is so perfect for single moms. Whether you are a widow or abandoned by the man who should have been committed father to your child, may this minister to you. God loves you, single mom! If you honor Him and obey Him, He will certainly uphold you and provide for you. 

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. ‘For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. ‘For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ says your God. 

‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.

‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you. ‘O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires…All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great.’

‘In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you. No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:4-8, 10-11, 13-14, 17‬ ‭

Technology and Hands-on Learning

Last year I was introduced to a company called Smart Toys, a distributor of learning materials that combine technology and hands-on learning. One of their products is called Marbotic — learning materials that were created by “tech-lovers and education experts to blend traditional wooden toys and touchscreen technology.”

Smart Numbers teach kids to count using ten beautiful wooden numbers and three educational apps inspired by the Montessori method. Smart Letters combine three apps and twenty six wooden letters to help kids learn reading and writing.

Catalina tested the Smart Letters out and she thoroughly enjoyed taking each letter and placing it on the screen to hear it’s name, sound and discover what words begin with the letter.

Marbotic is unique because it engages children with tactile experiences as they learn, but it also harnesses the advantages of technology. Although it’s a little pricey, it’s one of those educational toys/materials that you can use with succeeding children. The wooden letters and numbers are well-made, sturdy, and don’t require batteries.


Children as young as one year old can handle these with supervision and by three they can learn independently.

I also asked my kids and their cousins to sample Smart Toys‘ 3D coloring books which come in four different titles–Dino, Ocean, Safari, Bird. After kids color the pictures, they can pair them with a free app that makes their art come to life.

Other notable educational products by Smart Toys are Augmented Reality (AR) Books. These AR books come to life when you scan them with your smartphone or tablet. There are seven titles — Dino, Ocean, Safari, Farm Animals, Bug, Herptile, and Birds. 

Kids can read about creatures come to life on a page! It’s augmented reality for educational purposes. 
As a homeschool mom, I am thrilled that there are so many materials out there that I can use to teach my kids. My mom taught my siblings and I using textbooks with newsprint pages. We survived and did fine because that’s all we really had to choose from. Today, however, homeschool parents have a plethora of options for every bent and interest of their children. This is the best time in the world to be a homeschooler! 

For more information on Smart Toys please contact 0917-8877959 or follow @smartoysph on Instagram. 

 

We Don’t Need More Crazy Moms

I have been spending time with women friends, exchanging notes about their relationships with their mothers and it breaks my heart to hear story after story about their “crazy” moms– moms who are self-absorbed, bitter, broken, unkind, play favorites, and suffer from identity issues. 
There are valid reasons behind the bad parenting choices these moms have made, but they may never fully realize how deeply they have wounded their daughters, women who are my friends, who are moms just like me. It’s miraculous that these women friends are turning out to be such wonderful moms themselves. That’s the grace of God in their lives. However, it’s also sobering to be confronted by the reality that my thoughts, words, and actions matter so much to my own girls. I can become a version of “crazy” if I am not spirit-filled and resort to hurting them, too. 


To be honest, there are times when I do. As a homeschooling mom, wrestling with impatience is an everyday struggle. Even if I don’t yell at my kids, I feel very exasperated when they don’t understand a concept I have repeatedly taught them, or when it’s hard for them to exercise logic and common sense when a lesson seems easy and basic. Sometimes this aggravation manifests itself in deep sighs, rolling eyeballs, or negative comments that make my kids feel inadequate and insecure.

Just the other day, I was teaching Tiana math and she forgot how to count to 100 by 5s. Irked at how quickly the lesson faded from her consciousness, I snapped at her and gesticulated with my hands like I was in pain, “I don’t understand. This isn’t hard. What’s wrong? Why can’t you get it?” 
As I mouthed this out, I gripped the pages of her math book in my hands and motioned like I was going to tear it in half. Even if I wanted to, I really couldn’t have because I mistakenly held onto a portion of the book that was too thick. 

Tiana noticed all of this, of course. She self-consciously bowed her head to a point where I could still see her beautiful eyes, now troubled, looking up at me with concern and fear. She probably wondered what I would do next and the rest of the kids visibly displayed their anxiety as well. 

My heart sank. What was I doing?! An immediate apology was necessary to abate everyone’s tension. I took Tiana in my arms and said, “Please forgive me, Tiana, for getting irritated. I love you. I was wrong.” 

I felt horrid, a big time failure as a mom, as a homeschooler. 

Why was I so worked up about Tiana’s inability to count by 5s? And why did this display of frustration and rejection on my part have to happen again to my sweet girl? (I wrote about a similar entry earlier last year.) 

Well, just like the moms my friends described, I have the same tendency to be controlled by my emotions, to act out of arrogance, fear, and selfishness. The real me is an ugly person whose default mode is to express this ugliness unless I am controlled by the Holy Spirit. 
Over the past weekend, one of the topics of a retreat we attended as a family was the “Exchanged Life.” The speaker, a good friend of Edric and mine, delivered a powerful message that can be summed up in the phrase, NO LONGER I BUT CHRIST. 

I praise God that He didn’t just save us from our sins, He equipped us to overcome what is broken and ugly in all of us. He gave us the power to be victorious over our common follies and common mistakes by sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us when we come into a relationship with Him through Christ. 

Most days I am not a crazy mom and this is because of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life but it doesn’t mean I don’t have “crazy” in me. It lurks and waits for opportune occasions to bear itself, fangs, horns, and all, and the damage is not to be diminished.  

To the moms who can identify with this struggle and to those who grew up in homes where they never felt unconditionally loved or accepted by their mothers, might I encourage you with this: We don’t have to pass on the hurts our mothers wounded us with, and we don’t have to be the kind of moms who give in to the crazy in us. We have a God who loves us and redeems our pasts, and who secures our future. He is committed to helping us be the moms we need to be, no matter how we were mothered ourselves or how challenging it may be to fulfill this role in the present. However, we have to make some hard choices.


First, we may need to ask for forgiveness from our daughters. And we may need to forgive our moms (even if they never say sorry.) If we don’t, bitterness will defile us and those whom we love. 

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:14-15‬ ‭

Next, we have to invest in relationship-building activities and routines that minister to the hearts of our daughters. It can be reading to them, learning to cook together, taking walks, having “tea or coffee” (my mom does this with my sisters, sisters-in-law, and me periodically), going to the grocery or doing errands together, giving random hugs and being generous with words of appreciation for their character, their talents, and abilities. The point is to do with them and for them what matters to them, what makes them feel special and important. 

Two nights ago, my eldest son, Elijah, reminded me to tuck Tiana into bed when he carried his little sister, Catalina, into the girls’ bedroom. Tiana remained awake, unwilling to retire until I prayed and kissed her goodnight. I happened to be caught up in a long conversation with a friend who needed some counseling so I assumed that Tiana fell asleep.
By this time, I had comfortably settled in to sleep but Elijah’s reminder encouraged me to inconvenience myself to be with her. I stepped into her darkened room quietly and caught sight of her sitting up in anticipation, hoping I hadn’t forgotten. She smiled with relief as I came to her side to smother her with a kiss and hug, and pray with her.

“Were you waiting for me?” 

She nodded and then peacefully slipped under the covers and closed her eyes. 

That moment gave me a picture of what daughters are like. All daughters, no matter what season or age, are hoping that we will notice them, accept them, and desire to be with them. Let us break the cycle of pain we inherited or the one we initiated by meeting their need for our affection, attention, and affirmation so that we can create a cycle love that our daughters will pass on to their future families. 

Teaching Kids To Be Responsible for their Choices 

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid rescuing my kids when they make mistakes. I have to resist the urge to save them because my maternal instinct tells me to protect and cradle my children. However, some of them aren’t tiny tots anymore. They don’t need pampering from me. In fact, to do so might even be a disservice to their character growth in the area of learning responsibility and accountability. 

A few months ago, one of my sons lost his temper while playing on the piano. In his irritation, he banged on the keys with full force. Since it was an older piano, something inside (too technical for me to explain) collapsed, causing all the keys to become unplayable. He confessed his mistake to me which I appreciated, however an appropriate consequence was necessary. His hard-earned garage money went to paying for the repair of the piano. 

Did I feel like showing him mercy? Of course! But I knew this consequence would instill in him the values of stewardship and exercising self-control over one’s emotions. 

As my kids grow up, their consequences have to be modified. For example, after the age of 6 or 7, spanking isn’t as appropriate a form of punishment anymore. Furthermore, they pretty much get obedience and respect. Praise God! It’s the other character areas that begin to need work…things like discipline and responsibility. 

Very recently, I encouraged the kids to get rid of some of our cats by entrusting them to friends or family members who were willing to take them. However, they insisted on keeping all the cats for themselves. We now have seven. Too many! Five Siamese and three black and yellow-eyes ones. (The black ones I don’t particularly fancy because of their naughtiness). It’s impractical for us to feed this many felines and the impact on our monthly groceries is significant. 

My deal with the kids when it comes to their animals is, “I will take care of you, my kids (aka my animals), and you will take care of your animals.” 

So whatever needs the cats have beyond food is their look-out. When their kittens got some sort of skin problem, the kids begged me to bring them to the vet. They kept asking me to but it wasn’t a priority for me because of the busy-ness of the holiday season. However a a week ago when the hustle and bustle died down there was a window to take the cats to the vet. 

At first, I thought of inconveniencing myself to do it for them. But then a lightbulb went on in my head as I realized that this could be a great learning experience for my kids. 

I told my kids, “You guys will be the one to bring the cats and pay for the fees incurred by the visit to the vet.” 

Thankfully, there was minimal resistance. I armed them with my cell phone, but asked them to take along their own cash. I did hand Elijah my ATM just in case they didn’t have enough of their own money. Looking back, this was a bad idea, for safety reasons. Plus, I caught Elijah trying to slip my ATM into his shoe for safekeeping! Thankfully, I saw him before he plowed his foot on top of it. 

The extent of my meddling was preventing him from crushing my ATM with his foot and advising him to carry a man-purse with his iPad in it, my phone, and the ATM. This was the extent of my meddling, but I did ask the driver to keep an eye out for them (without facilitating the discussion with the vet).

My four older kids dressed up, put their cats in cages and spent the morning at the pet clinic. They had to speak with the vet, explain the problem, ask their questions, and pay their fees. It took about three hours for them to wait their turn. They returned home hungry and tired for a late lunch at 1 P.M.

Admittedly, a part of me was concerned about whether they would be able to accomplish the task. Yet, every time I picked up Edric’s phone in order to call the kids, Edric dissuaded me, encouraging me to let them be and give them room to figure out what to do.

The good news was that the cat skin problem turned out to be a very curable lice issue that isn’t contagious to humans. The better news was that our kids matured during this experience, and learned a valuable lesson on responsibility. 

Waiting for three hours at the vet with dogs yapping all around them, and seeing one of their seven cats scratch up the arm of the attendant till it was bloodied, proved to be a new and unpleasant ordeal for my kids. However, they came home feeling a sense of pride for having braved through the experience without Edric or me to hand-hold them. And, they finally embraced what it means to be responsible pet owners. It’s costly to care of pets and they need to understand that it’s not the househelp’s or my role to worry about their animals. 

As for me, I am trying to transition out of the coddling parent stage with my older kids, especially because they are boys. They don’t need a hovering mother who micromanages them and fixes all their problems. It’s not easy for me to watch them fail, suffer the consequences of their choices when they make mistakes, or allow them to be “off on their own.” However, when I take a back seat during situations like these they learn accountability and responsibility effectively. My job is to partner with Edric to mentor them, pray, and entrust them to the Lord.

 

It Takes a Village

Edric, the kids and I usually head up to Baguio shortly before Christmas to be with family on my side. During our stay this week, my dad decided to resume the tradition of family bible studies. He led us through the Christmas story as the kids listened wide-eyed and curious, interjecting their questions and comments. 
What a delight to observe my kids and their cousins as they gathered around their “angkong” (grandpa). It reminded me of a scene from my own childhood, when my dad would open the Bible on quiet Sunday evenings to teach us Scriptural truth. 

In Baguio, he explained Matthew chapter 1 verse by verse, focusing on how the birth of Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and how the mention of women like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheeba in the lineage of Christ revealed the grace of God. 

Tamar committed incest with her father in law, Judah; Rahab prostituted herself; Ruth was a Moabite; and King David slept with the very married Bathsheeba. My dad’s point was that God used imperfect and unlikely candidates to make up the genealogy of Jesus Christ. 

This tells us that God’s plan of salvation is greater than our past mistakes. He redeems what is broken in us, and He offers grace through His Son to all people. 

Since God keeps His promises and offers us His grace in the most unprejudiced way possible, Christmas is a time of great joy! Yet this joy isn’t fully realized until we trust and obey Him as Joseph and Mary did. My dad proceeded to explain that Joseph and Mary had to believe and cooperate with God’s plan for their lives. He challenged the grandkids to do the same. It was a wonderful two-part series Bible study for the grandkids. 

These are moments when I especially appreciate the blessing of family. Edric and I need a “village” to help us raise our kids, and this means the involvement of our greater family — grandparents, uncles and aunts. Even though we intentionally teach and train our kids, there remain to be many areas where the input and wisdom from others whom we trust is of great benefit.

The other day, when we were in the Ben Cab museum, Catalina rudely challenged my brother, Paul. He explicitly told her not to touch a work of art that she wasn’t supposed to and she defiantly did so. Reporting the incident to me immediately, Paul gave me the opportunity to deal with her appropriately. 


I pulled Catalina aside and she cried knowing that discipline was to follow. I didn’t spank her during this instance because we were at the gallery but a very serious talk about how she is to obey authorities ensued. She apologized to her Uncle Paul. Very much aware of her mistake, she remained penitent the rest of the afternoon. 

This morning, she voluntarily approached my brother to tell him, “I am obeying now, Uncle Paul,” and he commended her. 

Had Paul not bothered to tell me what happened or had I sided with Catalina defensively, I would have missed out on a moment to instill the concept of obedience to authority as something that extends past the context of parent and child.

I recall another occasion when my dad called out a character issue in Tiana, who ungratefully received a gift from him last December. She cried in disappointment, neglecting to say thank you for being given a gift at all. So my dad suggested that this year, our focus ought to be encouraging the kids to think about the needs of others. He tasked us to take the children to minister in underprivileged areas. 


It turned out to be a great recommendation. We brought the kids to Payatas where they got to look into actual homes and visually experience how little people have. Afterwards, one of our kids commented, “We need to do more for the poor! We need to find more ways to help them!” 

Early this year, my father in law lovingly corrected my mothering of Elijah. He cautioned me against doting on him too much. As a young man, Elijah didn’t need me to hover over him, micromanage his life or cripple him by doing for him what he can do for himself. Furthermore, I had to give him room to gravitate towards Edric, who could better mentor him during this transition into young manhood. This made a lot of sense but it wasn’t an easy reality to swallow. 

Edric and I continue to appreciate the correction and advice of the “village” people who surround our family. Sometimes it hurts to hear them point out flaws in our parenting or character areas our children need to improve on. Yet, their counsel is, more often the not, of great value to us as we grow through the different seasons and challenges of being parents to five kids. 


As the Bible so wisely puts it, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs‬ ‭11:14

At the same time, it’s important and necessary to filter through the counsel people give us so that it conforms to Biblical principles. Furthermore, recommendations from others that require major changes in the way we parent our kids have to be discussed by Edric and me so that we are in agreement that the change is necessary.

No parent has motherhood or fatherhood all figured out. So if you and I have people in our lives that can make up a village of godly counsellors to help raise our children then praise God! If we don’t, let’s pray for people to come along side us who can spur us on toward better parenting. There is gain to be had from the willingness to listen to the perspectives and insights of others. 

Here Comes the Knight 

After a hectic and action-packed two months, I crashed, emotionally and spiritually. All the speaking engagements, events, projects, ministry activities, and social gatherings ate into my homeschooling hours with the kids. As a result, the quality of our homeschool mornings was compromised. 

My relationship with Edric also suffered. Although we spent a lot of time together, our interactions weren’t tender or meaningful. Both of us had to focus on the tasks we were committed to. Like soldiers, we dutifully worked along side each other and accomplished our projects. However, we missed eight consecutive date nights which was a big deal for us! These had to be set aside to accommodate our busy-ness. 

I praise God for Edric’s intuitiveness when it comes to my personality. Since I am a closet introvert, no one really knows the internal struggle I deal with when I don’t have breaks in between activities. However, Edric can often tell when I am not exactly my self. He is sensitive to the slightest changes in my disposition. 

One afternoon when I was lying on our bed, listlessly fixated on the nondescript white paint of our bedroom ceiling, Edric opportunely sat down beside me. He turned my face to his and invited me into a conversation, attempting to gauge how I was doing emotionally and spiritually. After I articulated that I wouldn’t be able to survive another quarter like the one we were in, he reassuringly uttered the words, “Don’t worry, honey, I will take care of you.” 

With his full attention on me, coupled with his sincere attempt to offer comfort, I caved in to the strength he offered and let myself be weak in his arms. It felt like a safe place to display vulnerability, so I let the pressure spill out of me and the tears came freely. For the first time in weeks I enjoyed relief, as I remembered that God placed Edric in my life to watch over me. Afterwards, Edric stayed by my side until he was certain that I understood how committed he was to my well-being. 

His conclusion: I will protect your schedule. He agreed that the last two months were impossible to sustain in 2017 — the multiple conferences, out of town and out of country trips almost every week to speak and serve others, plus counseling, ministry, homeschooling, and parenting in between were too many good things crammed into an unrealistic time frame. When preoccupations shift the scale in the opposite direction of family, Edric is the first to recognize that something has to change. 

I am so thankful to the Lord that he gave me a husband who has risen up to the role of protector. Even though I didn’t think I needed him to be this for me when I got married, I have appreciated the way he has looked out for me (and our kids). It’s an undeserved blessing from the Lord. Plus, I have to admit that there’s a romantic bone in me that is attracted to Edric’s chivalry. 


Protectiveness comes in many forms. Here are some of the ways that Edric has protected me (and the kids.):

He exerts strength to shield the kids and me from physical harm. Sometimes this is as simple as putting us on the safe side of the pedestrian lane when we are on it. Or, it’s bringing a night stick when we go walking so he can use it to ward off aggressive dogs or intimidate rude bystanders. He is perpetually on the look out for us when we are in public places, mindful of where we are so he doesn’t lose any of us. If we were in an actual battle, I don’t doubt that he would sacrifice himself on the front lines to fight for us, too.

Meeting my need for emotional security is also an act of protection. This alleviates any fears I may have about losing his love or his attraction to me. It liberates me to give herself freely to him, especially in the area of intimacy. 

Edric also takes charge of our finances so that I don’t have to worry about playing the role of provider. When I do earn money, it becomes a bonus. Another wise thing he did was to invest in insurance options that would meet our monetary needs should something untoward happen to him. 

There’s protection in the form of spiritual leadership as well. This is what I value most. When Edric is gatekeeper of the home and stands as its guardian, he keeps out demonic and negative influences that can seduce the hearts and minds of our family. He does this by establishing guidelines about what we watch, see, and listen to. 

Sometimes Edric also needs to filter through the activities that I participate in to help me discern whether these are aligned with God’s purpose and will for my life. (He does this with our kids, too.)

Since Edric intentionally disciples the kids and me, this preserves our unity in the faith and places us in a position to receive the blessing of the Lord. His prayers to the Lord on our behalf are a means to spiritually cover against harm. Furthermore, his example of godliness and love for the Lord establishes the credibility of his authority, and inspires us to deny sin and follow God’s will. When we make wrong choices, Edric helps us to review what we could have done better to safeguard us from the pain of future mistakes. 
There’s a special blessing upon the family of a man who honors God. Psalms 128:1-4 declares, “How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you. your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.” 

While no husband is perfect, and this includes Edric, there is a wonderful atmosphere of calm and peace in our home because we know that there’s a godly and trustworthy man in charge of our welfare. (Ephesians 5:23)

If you are married and want a great article on the protective role of husbands, here’s one written from a man’s perspective, by Tim Challieshttp://www.challies.com/christian-living/leadership-in-the-home-a-godly-man-protects

Relax, Mom. It’s All Part of the Grand Plan.

On the flight to Dubai, after five hours of insufficient sleep, I decided to watch the movie, Bad Moms. Contrary to what its title implies, there were some insightful principles in it about motherhood. I don’t necessarily recommend the movie because of its immoral elements but I do think it had something to say about how we try to be so perfect as mothers that we kind of drive ourselves crazy living up to this expectation of ourselves. We stress out!

Sometimes we need to just chill and remember that God is in control. We need to rest in Him. 

This message came at just the right time for me. Recently, I have felt very inadequate as a mom. Elijah is going through puberty and Edan is dealing with doubts about faith and truth. Plus I still have a rambunctious toddler, Catalina, who attaches herself to me like glue. In between, are Titus and Tiana who still need me to be very hands-on as a homeschool parent. So on some days I want to find a rock to crawl under.

Of particular concern to me lately has been Edan. He is swimming in questions about theology and faith, struggling to understand mysteries like the Trinity, predestination, the sovereignty of God, the inerrancy of Scripture and its divine inspiration, and I am not always able to allay his doubts. Who can explain the Trinity?! 


Sometimes Edan ends up crying and confused, wondering how he can believe in truths he cannot fully grasp. It hurts to watch him on this journey because I cannot force him along or hurry him. The battle is inside, beyond where I can see and go as a mother. I have cried to the Lord in prayer for Edan. And there are moments when my heart turns critical, maddened by his inability to connect dots and reason sensibly, or apply faith when necessary.

In Ecclesiastes it says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.”

It goes on to read, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart…” (Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8, 11a)

Even though I have read these passages numerous times, they ministered to me in a new way by reminding me of the following:

– There is an APPOINTED TIME for everything. 

– There is a TIME FOR EVERY EVENT under heaven.

– He (God) has made everything APPROPRIATE in its time.

– He has also SET ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS. 

An appointed time implies purpose, intentionality. There is nothing accidental or chance-like about what happens in our lives, or in the lives of our children. Even if this juncture in the timeline of my history as a mom may feel out of control and chaotic, it’s a designated season. It is God-ordained. The same is true for Edan’s endless spiritual questioning and struggling. This is part of God’s plan for him.

Secondly, since there is a time for every event under heaven, this tells me that this season is important and necessary. And whew, it also implies that it’s temporal. Edan won’t linger in this state forever. 

Some seasons are easy, some are hard and painful, others are devastating, and still others, hopeful and joyous. This season of motherhood is painful for me…not in a tragic sort of manner but in a sobering sense. My two older sons are moving past the age of childhood. It’s a transition accompanied by emotional and spiritual complexities and I have to quit panicking! I can’t dwell on the changes they are going thorough (especially the changes in Edan), and think, I am losing my sons. 

Ecclesiastes continues by revealing that He (God) has made everything appropriate—a word which sounds so comfortingly like “customized and personalized.” In other words, God’s sovereign hand directs the course of every event in our lives and our children’s. His wisdom decides when the length of a season is enough, and what sort of season we need to walk through in order to build our character. 

My kids are growing in character, and I often think that they need to. But guess what? I need to grow in character, too! 

In the early months of this year, I kind of felt like I hit a good groove as a mom. My homeschooling was going well. The kids seemed behaved and “manageable.” I no longer had an infant, and breastfeeding came to an end. To be honest, I slacked off with my prayer time and switched to cruise control. 

However, when Edan began bombarding me with difficult questions and Elijah’s hormonal changes started to impact his moods and lower his threshold for frustration, I was jolted out of my complacency. Suddenly I felt insecure and lost as a mom.

Yet God used this for my good. Confronted by the reality that all my efforts at teaching, training and modeling cannot force my kids to desire God or His will drove me to pray fervently and tearfully for my children. My ambitions for my kids were whittled down to the most important of all—that they might grow up to know, love, obey, serve, and worship God. 

I know this, right? I have said it over and over again in my posts. But wow, this is when the rubber hits the road. 

Edan’s conversation with me a few weeks ago made me realize that my greatest longing as a mom is that my kids enter into eternity, to be welcomed by their Heavenly Father with the words, “Well done.” Wealth, power, fame, worldly accomplishments and accolades pale against this highest goal, especially when I consider the possibility that my kids’ souls are at risk. 

Mark 8:36 begs me to ponder, “For what does it profit a man (my child) to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” ‭

As Edan and I carried on a lengthy and exhausting dialogue about whether Jesus Christ’s claims were real, I delved into the wonders of faith-filled living, excited to illuminate for him the uncommon peace and joy that mark the lives of those who follow Christ. Beyond historical and prophetical evidence for the existence of Christ, this was another way for me to prove to Edan that Jesus is real. I thought it was a solid pitch.

Contrary to my expectations, Edan’s eyes welled up as he replied to me, “Mom, those are your experiences. I have yet to experience those things for myself.” 

My bubble of enthusiasm burst as I recognized, for the first time, that Edan’s main issue with truth was that it had been “secondhand” for him since he was a young boy. He needed to encounter Christ personally. 

Of course my heart collapsed at that moment when the sincerity of his tears and my inability to comfort him met each other. It was at this point that I surrendered to the reality that God has to be to be the one to open Edan’s eyes. Only God can cause the years of Bible reading, family devotions, the memorization of Scriptural truth, parental instruction and training, and the example Edric and I displayed for Edan to come to a point of convergence so that he sees and understands who God is. The decision to know, love, obey, serve, and worship God must be Edan’s. It can’t be something Edric and I impose on him. 

So where lies my hope?

Like Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, I am praying that the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to EDAN a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of EDAN’s heart may be enlightened, so that he will know what is the hope of His (Christ’s) calling, what are the riches of the glory of His (Christ’s) inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His (Christ’s) power toward those who believe…” (Ephesians‬ ‭1:16-18)‬ ‭

The day when it all makes sense to Edan will come at its appointed time. Till then, I am learning to relax as a mom. Everything that is happening in our family at present is part of God’s grand plan. And my kids going through difficult changes and seasons in their lives doesn’t mean I have been a bad mom — neglectful, hypocritical, or ill-tempered. By God’s grace I haven’t been those things. However, there’s much room for character improvement in me still. This is an appointed time in my life for me to embrace humble dependence on the Lord, to acknowledge that I don’t have it all together, that I am insufficient and incapable of performing the greater heart work that only God can do effectively in my kids. 

So this is me…relaxing…or at least, trying to! 


As my husband, Edric, advised, “Let’s continue to do our part and be faithful. Beyond that, don’t worry, hon. God is in control.” 

I hope this comforts you today, moms!